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There Will Be Zombies.
The lore of H1Z1 is very well thought-out and inspired by the outbreak of the H1N1 virus, otherwise known as "swine flu," that occurred in 2009. The basic premise is that H1Z1 is a viral mutation of the H1N1 virus that killed faster and reanimated the dead. Due to government cover-ups and an epic fail of vaccine distribution via secret aerosol deployments around the world, the virus became stronger, the secret vaccine was ineffective, and the world became overrun with the living dead. This left survivors of the outbreak to fend for themselves.
Aside from survival, crafting is the most important thing in H1Z1. Crafting is very fun but finding the materials to craft the items you need is not. At the beginning of Early Access, after numerous server issues, resources were scarce but since the system wipe last week, essential loot is a bit easier to find… although you're a bit screwed until you can track down a backpack to help carry any necessary resources you might find. Materials to craft shelters are the most scarce which definitely adds more of a challenge. It's easy to craft the essentials, by simply tearing up your shirt and finding some wooden sticks but finding other stuff isn't quite as easy. I discovered many recipes, but most of them meant using supplies I would need for the shelter I wanted to build later on.
Right now there is no current direct grouping system in the game. but if you play with friends on Steam. it is possible to spawn near each other if you start on a new server together. Is that a guarantee you'll find one another? No. If one of you has been playing on a server longer than the other, than the chances of you being spawned in the same vicinity is less likely. Based on reddit forums and other community pages dealing with this issue, it's clear that a majority of players are split on the issue. However, I would like some way of not having to spend close to an hour finding friends of mine to play with.
There are ways to determine your location using the "/loc" command which displays your coordinates in XYZ format the way they would appear on a map. You can use maps online to get a sense of where you are and have your friends do the same until you find each other. (There is an amazing database on the H1Z1 Wiki page that details various maps in the game.) Although It is possible to craft a compass, you need purified water and a metal shard, and both items are not easy to come by and are also crucial for crafting many other items you may need more immediately.
Even if you are able to group with friends or strangers and start some form of a base, there's no guarantee that spending hours fortifying yourself won't be completely ruined when you're offline. This isn't so much a case for PvE servers as it is for the PvP players. When you are offline it is possible for other players to break down the walls of your safehouse and steal whatever you may have lying around in containers. It is advisable to try to build your base away from the more populated areas of the map, but I still saw a majority of people building shelters in the middle of suburban areas most likely because it's a pain in the ass to bring necessary building supplies to a secluded location when playing by yourself.
Weapons are also not as easy to come by in H1Z1. After about eight hours of playtime across several servers, I finally found a gun sitting on the table of a diner. Luckily, I had also found four bullets after looting random houses. That's right. I found one bullet each time. Look, if i play for hours and come across what looks like a box of ammunition, there should be at the very least two or more bullets in the damn box. Even craftable melee weapons can be frustrating. When I managed to find materials to craft an axe to chop down a tree for lumber, the damn axe broke. Oh, and do not bank on finding a usable vehicle either. You need to find six highly rare mechanical items before you can even think about fixing up a car including a battery which you may need to charge.
Little things like these show that H1Z1 still has a ways to go before it really smooths out all the kinks and changing the variables that affect how long weapons crafted by the player will last, especially if said weapon is also needed to gather crafting material.
One way to get gear faster is to utilize the paid airdrops, a feature of the game that has been largely controversial because at one point it was understood that "pay-to-win" airdrops would not be a part of the game. When it was announced that they would in fact be a key feature of monetized gameplay, the H1Z1 team issued a statement on reddit clarifying the decision and explaining why the "confusion" occurred in the first place.
Confusion or not, I am not a huge fan of monetization in games, but I understand that for free-to-play MMOs this can be a good optional feature to generate additional revenue, which this clearly is. The sell here is that the airdrops are difficult to get due to the high profile of the plane coming in to drop the loot which attracts all players who can see the plane and of course zombies. To be more accurate, at least seven zombies are included in each airdrop.
So even if you are lucky enough not to fight off other survivors to get the airdrop you paid for, you'll still have to put up a fight. It would make more sense, though, for the zombies nearby the airdrop to be drawn to the noise of the damn plane than to just include them smack dab in the middle of the airdrop. That would at least leave room for variability as to how many zombies show up at the airdrop so it wasn't the same scenario each time and it would act as a deterrent for potential looters. You can read the official statement on airdrops here to see the full explanation.
If you are opposed to the airdrops, it is important to note that this will be a free-to-play game upon official release so in that sense paid airdrops work in theory. It's possible to get by in the game without ever calling in an airdrop as the variability to what gear is going to spawn does not automatically mean you'll have a ton of supplies necessary for building a shelter or defending yourself. The other monetized aspects of the game include loot crates, crate keys to open the loot crates, which usually are just new skins for clothing, and Event Tickets which can get you into Battle Royale, a last-man-standing game mode.
Battle Royale originated as a popular DayZ mod and was licensed by SOE. The original mod that inspired Battle Royale Mode in H1Z1 was created by Brendan Greene, who is now a consultant for the H1Z1 team. Since it is only accessible through event tickets, you'll either have to purchase tickets to play or hope that you somehow manage to find a ticket on a PvP or PvE server. If you enjoy PvP survival scenarios, then Battle Royale may be right up your alley despite the price tag. Why play Battle Royale here if it's still available as a mod for a game players may already have? But if you do win in Battle Royale, then you’ll receive a ton of loot which includes a number of survival gear, more vent tickets, loot crates, and loot keys.
There is one thing you may have noticed I haven't discussed very much so far and that's zombies. H1Z1 zombies are present, but even if I am detected, I never feel that I am in any immediate danger. Usually when I am attacked in the open, it's one solo zombie which is not difficult to handle if you have a bow and arrow (currently takes about three hits to take one down). If you're playing on a PvP server, you are far more likely to be killed for your gear by a random player than a zombie horde, which seem to only exist during airdrop scenarios. If you want more of a challenge, you can play on servers that require headshot-only kills.
There a lot of promise for H1Z1 as a free-to-play zombie MMO because it’s definitely a market with a dedicated fanbase, I don’t know one person who hasn’t thought about his or her ideal zombie apocalypse scenario and that includes people I know who don’t even own video game consoles. Despite the direct comparisons to DayZ, the fact that it’s running off the “Forgelight” engine used on Planetside 2 means we’ll likely get a more stable product. On top of having a strong game engine advantage, H1Z1 is doing a great job of handling community discussions and implementing updates that make significant differences in loot distribution so players who want to scavenge aren't that much more disadvantaged than those who participate in Battle Royale or call in Airdrops. They’ve also been very vigilant when it comes to hacking and have started instituting bans on players abusing the game.
If you want to be a part of the Early Access experience and help make H1Z1 a better game, you can join Early Access now. For $19.99, you’ll receive 3 event tickets, 1 Launch Crate Key, and 2 Crates, or you can upgrade to the Premium Edition Bundle for $39.99 to get 25 event tickets, 3 airdrop tickets, 4 Launch Crate Keys, and an exclusive Aviator Hat Crafting Recipe. When H1Z1 finally releases it will be available, free to play, on PC and eventually PS4.